Changing is difficult. Wouldn't it be great if you could click your fingers and have everything fall into place? Snap! Perfect posture. Snip! Balanced diet. Click! Zen-like disposition. If only it was that easy.
Change is an ongoing process that takes time and devotion. It doesn't have a sudden start point or end point. For successful change you need to implement actions realistically (and slowly!) until it becomes part of your usual life. Eventually something that you don't do, becomes something that you do do.
Even if it doesn't happen as quickly as you may like, the most important thing is that you are heading in the right direction and getting closer to your required goal.
Here are seven steps you need to take to make that change and stick to it.
1. Remember you have a choice.
It's your choice to be who you are, and it's within your control to change yourself when you want to. You choose to change something because you want to — this is a positive choice you are making for yourself.
2. Begin with bite-sized goals.
Don't expect miracles. Work out what you want to ultimately achieve and start with the smallest version of it. If you want to take up running, don't expect to do a half marathon within a week. Start with five minute chunks. Grow it slowly. If you want to address your work-life balance, don't suddenly schedule in ten hours of "me time." Perhaps try just 15-30 minutes a day to start. Be realistic.
3. Associate it with something you already do.
It can help to attach a new desired action to a well-formed current behavior in order to make it easier to turn it into a habit. For instance, always doing your Pilates stretches before you take your shower. Or doing a short meditation as you have your hot drink in the morning. It's a good way to find a time slot within your day to do something different, and also works as a reminder to keep it up.
4. Give yourself rewards.
Think of a reward that will make you feel good, and that you'll miss if you don't get it. They can be small rewards, like allowing yourself a coffee only if you've had the right kind of morning workout, or bigger rewards like buying yourself your favorite magazine to read on the way home from the gym after three consecutive days. Whatever the reward is, it should not be inconsistent with your goal — so if your aim is to eat healthier, don’t go straight for the cupcake.
5. Make it public.
If you take accountability for what you are doing, you are more likely to accomplish it. Tell your friends and family what your aims are. It means they will be sympathetic to you, and this will help you stay on track. Ideally, find a partner who will be your first line of support when you are feeling weak. Call them when you are not up to it, or feel like you are failing, and let them give you a bit of encouragement. Often that's all it takes. If you can find a partner who is going through the same thing at the same time, even better.
6. Plan for all circumstances.
So you've managed to make a change and it's all going swimmingly at home. But then you visit your parents and it's game over. Don't use this as a chance to stop. With full preparation, this can be avoided. You know your weak points, be true to yourself and give yourself the best chance to continue. If it means missing out on a few things at the start of the process, so be it. Explain your situation, and remember why you started the change in the first place: it's your choice, and it's what you want. Be strong.
7. Give it time.
Change will happen. But it won't be overnight. It can be frustrating at first but if you keep going, frequently reminding yourself why you are doing it, the process itself can be satisfying. You've put yourself at the top of your list for once.
It is hard work, but done the right way, you will get there.